What changed for the 49ers? Click here
Blaine Gabbert had been a 10th overall pick bust since he entered the NFL back in 2011 with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former Missouri star had an YPA of under six in all four seasons prior to getting a chance with the 49ers last year. A funny Thing happened in San Francisco last season though and that is the 27-year old began to make better decisions on the field and actually put up respectable numbers in the passing game. He completed 178 of 282 passes (63%) for 2031 yards with 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions and began to show some of that potential that made him an early round pick. New 49ers head coach Chip Kelly has gone on record stating he likes Gabbert and would rather work with him than draft a young quarterback so there is a lot to like and at least pay attention to here in San Francisco.
28-year old Thaddeus Lewis has been around the NFL for awhile and has competed 60.8% of his 189 passes with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He is not a star quality quarterback but seems able to step in and compete when he has received a chance.
Kaepernick is an enigma.. Sometimes I feel the NFL and the brains in the NFL actually suck the life out of unique players
by trying to fit a round peg into a square hole and Kaepernick is one of those round pegs. Kaepernick has been at his best at the NFL level when scrambling
around like Fran Tarkenton of the 1970s, making up the plays in the dirt. The more the 49ers try to mold him into a conventional passer, the more his game appears to
go south. He is a tremendous athlete with a cannon arm and has elite potential but last year he really struggled to move the offense and the 49ers took a big step backwards.
At least glance his stats were ok with 3369 passing yards, 60% completions and 19 touchdowns against 10 interceptions but he scored just 1 rushing touchdown and the offense was
stagnant. He needs to get back to improvising and making plays happen with his legs to get this offense rolling.
At times in his first two NFL seasons, Carlos Hyde has looked poised to become a difference maker with the 49ers. Great size with decent agility and power, Hyde was on his way in his second season with 470 rushing yards and a 4.1 yards per carry average before suffering a foot injury, losing the rest of the season. Hyde has trimmed down to 225 pounds this year and he should be a little quicker and explosive than in his first two seasons. There is a 1200-yard rushing back inside Hyde just waiting to break out so don't be surprised to see a top-five fantasy season out of him in 2016.
Mike Davis is a powerful 217 pounds and a 5'9 frame. Excellent late fourth round pick by the 49ers. He is not very shifty but has the power and drive to move the chains and has enough burst to surprise with some long runs. He was off to a slow start as a rookie, averaging less than 2.0 yards per carry before breaking his hand. He will compete for the backup running back position.
Shaun Draughn has kicked around the NFL for awhile and the 28-year old veteran running back provides some experience to the mix here. However with his poor 3.5 yards per carry average throughout his career and only 3 career touchdowns, he is not talented enough to get the job done more than an occasional situation. He has only 527 career yards
This is not a top-tier receiving core in San Francisco and losing veteran star Anquan Boldin in free agency is going to hurt. Yes, Boldin is on the downslope of his career but his tenacity and ability to get open will be missed.
Torrey Smith was brought over from Baltimore Ravens last year but while he caught some deep balls and averaged a strong 20 yards per catch, only 33 receptions in sixteen games was a huge disappointment. Smith is blessed with good speed and quickness but he is not a great route runner and he has only caught 246 of 515 career targets, averaging only 49 receptions per year. His speed will always result in a few long pass receptions per season but there is just not enough consistency here to get excited. 50 receptions could be his upside in this offensive attack.
Quinton Patton, a former 4th round pick from Louisiana Tech is the current leader in winning the starting job across from Torrey Smith as he did have some success in his third season last year. He caught 30 passes for 394 yards with a touchdown. However he is not talented enough to really be considered a second option and he will be pushed hard by Jerome Simpson, Bruce Ellington, DeAndrew Smelter and DeAndrew White. Patton's strength is that he is the best route runner on the team and that should help him emerge through training camp.
Jerome Simpson is a veteran receiver with marginal abilities. He can step in and do a serviceable job here if needed but this 30-year old has only 2058 career receiving yards in his eight seasons. When healthy he has good speed and a nice burst but there is no reason to expect him to elevate his career now.
If there is a darkhorse on this roster at receiver it is DeAndre Smelter who suffered an ACL tear near the end of his collegiate season and missed his entire rookie season. That knee injury was the reason he slid to the 4th round of the draft and he should be healthy and ready to go this season. In my opinion, he is the most upside of any of the players and with a good camp could certainly emerge as the starter. Smelter reminds me a lot of Anquan Boldin as he is 6'2 and 226 pounds and is built like a
powerful running back. He is big and physical and fights for the football.
Bruce Ellington is another former 4th round draft pick that has potential to elevate his play. Undersized but very quick, he caught only 13 passes with the club last year but will be given a long look in training camp.
The Vernon Davis era is mercifully over in San Francisco after the team released him last season. There are three capable tight ends on this roster battling for playing time and all three had some success last year.
Garrett Celek is the current odds on favorite to win the starting job for the 49ers and he does everything quite well. This undrafted tight end is not as dynamic than the other two young tight ends listed here but Celek is consistent and dependable and works hard every play. Celek caught 19 passes for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns on the year in 11 games before injuring his ankle. Vance McDonald stepped in after that and had some success so a battle is looming between the two of them.
Vance McDonald, a former 2nd round pick from Rice University broke out last season with 30 receptions for 326 yards and 3 scores. He has great size, runs well and has decent route running ability. However his hands are suspect and he flat out dropped many passes last year. He found himself behind undrafted tight end Garrett Celek much of the season but his 21 receptions for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns over the final six games showcases the potential he does have.
Blake Bell is a 4th round pick from Oklahoma who has awesome size at 6'6 and 252 pounds. He is a former quarterback with the Sooners and began learning the tight end position late in his collegiate career. He has the potential to be a starting tight end but is likely still at least a season away from really competing for that job. He is a dynamic athlete though so don't rule in out elevating his play this season.
Projected Starters: LT Joe Staley, LG Josh Garnett (rookie), C Daniel Kilgore, RG John Theus (rookie), RT Erik Pears
Key Backups: Zane Beadles, Fahn Cooper, Brandon Thomas, Trent Brown, Andrew Tiller, Marcus Martin
The leader of the group and the best player in this group is veteran left tackle Joe Staley who is steady and dependable. He has started 130 games and is still at an elite level. After him though this group gets very dicey. The 49ers made strides to improve that in the NFL Draft by selecting Josh Garnett in the first round and the Stanford standout will make this unit better. The other three slots along this unit are wide open however and none of the options are very appealing. I put rookie John Theus in as right guard with his upside but really, training camp and preseason games will decide those positions. The 49ers look very strong on the left side but center and the right side needs improvement.
41-year old Dawson continues to be a good option in the NFL and just re-signed a one-year deal to remain with the 49ers. He has kicked 364 of 428 career field goal attempts.